Monday, December 12, 2016

O Holy Night

Twelve Songs of Christmas #7
O Holy Night

In 1847, Placide Cappeau was commissioned to write a Christmas poem by a parish priest for Christmas mass.  Cappeau was inspired while reading Gospel of Luke, and considered what it would be like to be present at this amazing moment in history.  In reflecting on the birth of Jesus, he wrote:

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining, It is the night of the dear Savior's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining.
Till He appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
O night divine, oh night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

The song became popular in France where it was written, but later was banned by the church, because Cappeau and composer Adolphe Adam were not Christians.

However, people in France continued to sing the song.  It remained popular despite this church-wide ban.

In 1855, John Sullivan Dwight translated the song into English.  The song became wildly popular in America and beyond.  It is said to be the first song played over the radio. 

Dwight was an abolitionist, and connected strongly with the commonly-sung second verse.  This verse supported his view of the problem of slavery in America (Collins, Ace, Stories Behind the Best Loved Songs of Christmas, 2004).

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

Chains were broken when Christ was born.  His birth frees the enslaved and the oppressed.  It was not only an amazing event to behold when it happened over two millennia ago; it continues to be a life-altering event today.

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